As a very new dad, my mind was blown when I read about where the ‘male breadwinner’ concept came from, and how recently it was created. The book was Father Time by Daniel Petrie and is well worth a scan. I think too few men understand the male breadwinner origins as well. In short, the industrial revolution screwed up the way we had done fatherhood for millennia. Understanding that the male breadwinner was a Dickensian concept, and not some natural law, helped me feel much more confident and empowered about my work choices as a dad.
For so long, we did fatherhood differently. Dads were intimately involved in the parenting, especially the teaching of life skills to their sons and nephews to survive in a dangerous world. For instance, several men including the dad were involved in the raising of boys. They had a lot of role models about what being a man meant. Then came the industrial revolution and we got the concept of the ‘male breadwinner’. We threw out the evolutionary approach to dads and replaced it with the industrial revolution. Instead of having dads being dads, they became workers and bosses first and foremost. Their attachment to caring for children got less and less to the point that it became conventional wisdom that women did the parenting, and were naturally better at it as well. And we’re still stuck with this ridiculous notion. Men still so often think they have to be the breadwinner and feel they let their family down otherwise. We’ve got to help other men challenge these feelings.
For most of human history, we knew dads weren’t meant to working away from their kids. So if your feeling stressed or worried about standing out from the workday crowd at the office when you say you’d prefer to be caring for your kids, know that you’ve got lots of human history behind your instincts.